Alaskanomics: Which Areas are Recovering and Which Ones Are Not?
A short brief on the regional dimension of the Alaska recession, part 2.
From Alaskanomics blog entry: 12/13/2018
We focus on the last two years of the recession where we present an exercise by region to showcase which boroughs/census areas have fared well and which ones continue to experience difficulties. We divide Alaska into five regions: Southeast, Southwest, Southcentral, Interior, and the Far North. For each region we show a two way graph of employment percent changes between 2016-2017 and those of 2017-2018. This permits us to see how boroughs/census areas have performed in both years at the same time.
The boroughs/census areas which grew in both 2017 and 2018 will be in the upper right quadrant, the ones which experienced negative growth in both years will be in the lower left quadrant, the ones which experienced growth in 2017 and decline in 2018 will be in the upper left quadrant, and the ones who have experienced declines in 2017 but growth in 2018 will be in the lower right quadrant.
The figure below shows that Skagway, Haines, Sitka, Prince of Wales all experienced positive growth in both 2017 and 2018. Petersburg census area and Juneau are the only two units to have experienced negative growth in both 2017 and 2018. It is, however, the case that Juneau’s employment declines were much more modest than those experienced in Petersburg. Out of all the regions, the southeast region seems to have fared best given that the economies of most boroughs/census areas depend on seafood and tourism. Both sectors are more sensitive to national and international markets than the state economy.
Unlike Southeast, there is considerable heterogeneity across Southwest Alaska. For example, Lake and Peninsula Borough had two years of very fast growth while Aleutians East suffered two consecutive years of negative growth. In Aleutians East, the losses were spread across a variety of sectors including education and health-care services, local government, and retail trade.
Of the four boroughs in Southcentral Alaska, the Matsu is the only one to have positive growth in both 2017 and 2018, with growth in 2018 much more robust than 2017. Anchorage, on the other hand, experienced two years of negative growth with losses in 2018 slightly larger than in 2017. Valdez performed much better in 2018 than it did in 2017, while Kenai performed worse in 2018 than it did in 2017.
We turn our attention to the Interior where Nome and Yukon were the only two areas with positive growth in both 2017 and 2018. Fairbanks had small negative growth in both years. Southeast Fairbanks census area lost more than 5% of its jobs in 2017 and experienced a strong rebound in 2018. On the other hand, Denali, grew by 3.67% in 2017 and then shed 5.87% of its jobs in 2018.
As most Alaskans know, the far north is home to considerable resources. This means that the economies of the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Boroughs are very sensitive to changes in the price of commodities. Therefore, it is unsurprising to see that the North Slope Borough had two successive years of very significant negative growth. To be clear, all these job changes include non-residents and therefore are not just reflective of the welfare of residents of these areas. Almost all the losses in both years are in natural resources and mining, with some job losses in professional and business services. It is important to note that the rate of job loss in 2018 was much less pronounced than the one in 2017. The Northwest Arctic also experienced two years of negative growth but the declines were much smaller changes relative to the North Slope. The job losses in Northwest Arctic Borough amounted to 2.27% in 2017 and 3.01% in 2018.
In This Issue
Alaska Problems Require Alaska Solutions
On January 16, a fire destroyed the water plant and washeteria in the southwest Alaska village of Tuluksak. For the village of about 350 people, it was a devastating blow. The water plant was the only source of drinking water in the village, in which the primarily Yup’ik residents lack indoor plumbing and rely on honey buckets, not uncommon in the flat, swampy region.